Career Paths in Accounting: From Auditor to CFO

Career Paths in Accounting: From Auditor to CFO

Most people get into accounting because they have a knack for numbers and financial analysis. However, it’s a broad and diverse career field. Once you start an accounting role, you quickly discover the job requires multiple skills. From there, it is quite common to follow a career path that utilizes the accounting skills you most enjoy.

You might have an eye for detail that is well-suited to auditing. Maybe the rest of the accounting team turns to you for leadership, making you a prime candidate for a management role. That path could lead you to becoming a chief financial officer (CFO) someday.

That’s the beauty of accounting. While outsiders might imagine it as a dull and dreary field, full of spreadsheets and formulas, there are actually plenty of viable and enjoyable career paths in accounting. Here’s a look at some of the most common accounting career paths and how to advance your career.

Advancement Opportunities in the Accounting Industry

Typical entry-level accounting jobs include bookkeeper roles and clerk positions. However, there are many advancement opportunities once you find your niche and sharpen your skills. Here is an example of a career path you might follow after you outgrow an entry-level position:

  • Auditor: Auditors typically work for public accounting firms or consulting groups, examining financial records to assess internal controls. Essentially, the role of an auditor is to ensure compliance with laws, regulations, and accounting standards.
  • Senior auditor: With a few years of experience, auditors can progress to senior roles, taking on more responsibility and leading audit teams.
  • Manager or supervisor: Experienced auditors often move into management positions, overseeing audit engagements and mentoring junior staff.
  • Controller: Controllers are responsible for a company’s internal accounting functions, including financial reporting, budgeting, and analysis. Controllers also analyze financial data to identify trends, monitor performance, and support management decision-making.
  • Chief financial officer: The controller is typically the chief advisor to the CFO, a company’s top financial executive. A CFO is responsible for all financial aspects of the business, including financial planning, strategy, and risk management.

Requirements for Becoming a Certified Public Accountant (CPA)

The certified public accountant (CPA) designation is the gold standard in the accounting profession. To become a CPA, you typically need to meet the following requirements:

  • Education: A bachelor’s degree in accounting or a related field.
  • Experience: Most states require one to two years of relevant accounting experience in addition to the degree.
  • Exam: You must pass the Uniform CPA Examination.
  • Ethics: Some states have ethics requirements for CPAs. This typically involves certification and annual ethics training.

Skills Needed for Different Accounting Roles

Each accounting role requires unique skill sets. Many of these skills are core competencies in all accounting roles. But if you have a knack for specific skills, this can guide you along your accounting career path.

For example, understanding accounting principles, financial reporting standards, and relevant regulations is crucial for auditors, tax accountants, and financial analysts who ensure compliance and accuracy in financial reporting.

The ability to analyze financial data, identify trends, and draw meaningful conclusions. These skills are valuable for financial analysts, management accountants, and controllers who must assess performance and make informed decisions.

Salary Ranges for Accounting Professionals

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data for 2023, the median annual wage for accountants and auditors was $79,880. Keep in mind, however, that salaries vary significantly depending on experience, industry, location, and specialization. For example:

  • Senior Auditor: According to the BLS, experienced auditors earn $137,280 annually or more.
  • Controllers/financial managers: The 2023 median salary for controllers and financial managers was $156,100.
  • CFO: Executive-level financial managers can earn anywhere from $200,000 to $500,000, depending on the organization.

Tips for Networking and Advancing Your Accounting Career

Building a solid network and actively seeking opportunities are crucial for career advancement in accounting. Connect with other accounting professionals through organizations like the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and similar state-level societies.

You can also network with colleagues by attending conferences, seminars, and workshops to stay abreast of industry trends and expand your knowledge. Build relationships with fellow professionals, clients, and industry contacts to open doors to new opportunities.

Of course, education is also central to advancing your career. If you’re interested in executive-level roles, you might pursue an advanced accounting degree, CPA training, or an MBA (Master of Business Administration).

Following Your Accounting Career Path

Regardless of how and why you got into accounting, you made an excellent choice. Nearly every role in the field can lead to a new role and exciting career opportunities. The key is identifying your unique skill set and pursuing a suitable role. Following your own accounting career path can lead to a long and lucrative career. For more guidance on career trends in a wide range of industries, follow MRINetwork.